The Hartford Wolf Pack finished Week 5 of their American Hockey League 2013-2014 season with back-to-back losses to their closest rivals, the Springfield Falcons. Both games were 3 – 2 losses, and both were tightly contested, with the first of the two games being decided in a shootout. The Falcons are nipping at the Wolf Pack’s heels for first place in the Northeast Division and as the Wolf Pack came into their Friday night game on November 8th, 2013 to face the Providence Bruins, it looked as though first place was up for grabs between the Wolf Pack, Falcons and now the up and coming Adirondack Phantoms who had amassed for themselves an impressive 4-game winning streak going into that Friday night.
The Providence Bruins came into the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut with a 4 – 4 – 0- 2 record and 10 standings points for a third place spot in their Atlantic Division behind the Saint John’s Ice Caps and first place Manchester Monarchs. The 5,501 fans attending the game were a great sight to see and there was a lot of excitement and anticipation for a great game between these two longtime rivals. Fans however could not have expected the barrage of scoring that would ensue from both teams.
Four goals were scored within the first seven minutes of the first period. Action started with a goal by Providence Bruins’ Craig Cunningham at the 2:16 mark, assisted by R. Spooner and C. Camper. The goal was scored on the power play. The Wolf Pack would answer right back with their own power play goal a minute later by Oscar Lindberg, assisted by Danny Kristo and team captain Aaron Johnson. Even before the ice could settle, the Bruins took the 2 – 1 lead just a minute after Lindberg’s goal with a blast past Jason Missiaen by M. Fraser, his 7th goal of the season. The Wolf Pack would just tie it back up at 2 – 2 with a goal by Derek Powe, his 2nd goal of the season, assisted by Danny Syvret, who continues to extend his point streak now to 9 assists in as many games. At 10:13 of the first period, the Providence Bruins would take the lead and send the Wolf Pack behind at the start of the 2nd period with M. Fraser’s 2nd goal of the night.
The second period started with M. Fraser’s hat trick goal at the 7:15 mark of the second period. This goal would be assisted by R. Spooner and J. Morrow. R. Spooner would finish the game with four assists. The Bruins would go up 5 – 2 with Craig Cunningham’s second goal of the night and his 4th of the season at 8:56 of the second period, assisted by M. Fraser and C. Camper. It was looking like the Fraser and Cunningham Show at this point. A. Khokhlachev would make it 6 – 2 with his 2nd goal of the season at 10:58 of the second period. The Wolf Pack were looking disorganized and beat defensively but they got a spark from Marek Hrivik’s goal at 18:18 of the second period which seemed to put some life into a comeback effort.
The Wolf Pack returned in the third period with two quick goals just fourteen seconds apart from each other. First it was Sean O’Donnell at the 1:00 mark of the third, followed by Ryan Bourque’s second goal of the season just 14 seconds later to bring the Wolf Pack to within a goal, with the score being 6 – 5. Things were looking up for the Wolf Pack and fans were certainly expecting more comeback magic. The third periods lately had been turning to the Wolf Pack’s favor until their back-to-back losses with the Springfield Falcons. The Wolf Pack have put up strong third period efforts but in these last few games, have struggled to add the finishing touches on their comebacks. After Ryan Borque’s goal, Craig Cunningham would secure his own hat trick with a goal at 13:51 of the third period. M. Fraser would hammer in the final nail to the Wolf Pack coffin for the night with an empty net goal at 18:40 of the period, his fourth goal of the night and his 10th goal of the season.
Craig Cunningham would finish the game with a hat trick, R. Spooner would be the second star of the game with four assists on the night while M. Fraser would be the much more impressive third star of the game with four goals and an assist for 5 points. Stars for the defeated Wolf Pack, in my opinion would be Danny Syvret who contributed 2 assists and Derrek Powe who pitched in a goal and an assit in the Wolf Pack’s effort.
While the Wolf Pack may have lost a tough battle, it is encouraging to see signs of increased offensive output. The Wolf Pack didn’t get many power play opportunties, certainly not nearly as many as the Bruins had. The Wolf Pack did manage to convert on one of two power play chances and also saw goals scored by a few of their rookies and sophmore players. The Bruins simply relied on Cunningham and Fraser for their offense but also managed to get under the Wolf Pack’s collective skins to create four power play chances–of which they were able to convert on 3 of them.
While there was plenty of scoring, both teams had an even number of shots on goal in both the second and third periods. Both the Wolf Pack and Bruins had 9 shots in the second and 9 shots in the third. It was in the first period where the Bruins really seemed to come out with more intensity and the Wolf Pack struggled to organize their defence and catch up with the hot and streaky Cunningham and Fraser. The Bruins had 13 shots on goal against Jason Missiaen in the first period while the Wolf Pack put up only 5 shots against N. Svedberg. Unfortunately the Wolf Pack didn’t switch goalies and put Scott Stacjer in net until very late in the second period. Stacjer made 7 saves on the 8 shots he faced and only allowed one goal.
At the conclusion of Friday night’s AHL hockey action, the Springfield Falcons had lost 3 – 0 against mutual division rival Adirondack Phantoms. The Phantoms increased their win streak to 5 games and with the Falcons’ lost, the Wolf Pack maintained their first place spot atop the Northeast Division at least for the time being. Going into the rest of the week though, both the Falcons and Phantoms are poised to hopscotch over each other and possibly steal first place from the Wolf Pack who will face the Providence Bruins again on Sunday, November 10th, 2013.